So, Stimey, How Are Those Resolutions Coming?

Well. I’m having some mixed results with my 2016 resolutions.

I haven’t created any photo books yet. And I’m not doing such a great job with writing more, am I?

Well, maybe that’s because I’m spending so much time doing such a kickass job of my goal #3, which was to lose weight, but also had increased running and fitness folded into it.

I’m down a solid number of pounds and I’ve gotten healthier about my eating. I am proud of me. I’ve got a long way to go, but I’m doing it! I’m using My Fitness Pal to log my food and exercise and it has been helping a huge amount. I have exactly two friends on the app (Alex and one other person), which is perfect. It has become this great little motivational, encouraging space that I’m kind of addicted to.

I’ve run a couple of races this year so far, one on January 1st and one on February 7. In a weird coincidence, race photographers captured me in almost the exact same place in my stride in each of them.

Two photos side by side, almost identical, except I'm wearing a yellow shirt in the left one and a purple shirt in the right one.

It’s weird how similar they are, isn’t it?

January is on the left. I think my leg position in the February one is slightly more flattering, but I also think I’m starting to see a teensy bit of body change, which is a great feeling. Let’s only hope that the photographers at my next race capture the same pose so I can continue my comparison.

Speaking of running, I have been so happy doing it recently. All last year I struggled to get out and run. I always felt great afterward, but I was completely lacking in motivation. I didn’t run as much as I’d hoped and it was often a real struggle.

This year I’m falling back in love with running. I’ve already run my first 100 miles for the year—100.04, not that I’m counting or anything—and my body feels so strong while I’m doing it. Instead of seeking flat routes, as I did last year, I’m running up hills (and back down, yay!) and pushing myself to get stronger. Instead of having to force myself to lace up and go outside, I’ve found myself craving runs.

This is a good thing, considering I’m registered for a half marathon in May and a 20-miler in September. I am not playing around this year, people. Tomorrow is my weekly long run—I have 7.3 miles planned—and I can’t wait.

That all said, talk to me in July when I have a 15-mile run scheduled in 95-degree heat. If I’m still this enthusiastic then, well, I will have won 2016—especially if I have some photo books sitting on my shelf as well.

Why—and How—to Talk to Your Kid About Their Autism

Last week I had the privilege of speaking to a room full of parents of autistic kiddos who wanted advice on how to talk to their kids about their autism diagnoses. I’d like to thank Partnership for Extraordinary Minds for hosting me and for the parents who came with their kids’ best interests in their hearts and excellent questions on their minds. I thought I’d publish my thoughts here because, hell, I already wrote them out, and also maybe they’ll help someone.

I co-presented with a lovely woman who spoke a lot about how kids need to know about their diagnoses to participate in their IEPs and transition plans and in their future when they need job and post secondary school accommodations. She made some excellent points. She spoke without any notes. I had fifteen pages typed out. Some of us were less experienced than others. (Read: me.)

I’d like to thank all of you who emailed and commented when I asked you for your stories. I couldn’t quote everyone in my talk, but I carefully read what each of you had to say and it all informed my talk. You are wonderful. Thank you.

Most of what I said is below (annotated after the fact by me).

I’m really excited to be here today to talk about this. I want to talk to you a little bit about not just how to talk to your kids about their diagnoses, but why you should, but I’ll start by telling you a little bit about me. I live in Montgomery County with my husband and three kids, all of whom have diagnoses of autism, ADHD, or both. Two of them are autistic. I am also autistic. My husband is the sole neurotypical member of my family, which leaves him in charge of everything in my house that requires executive functioning skills. [Alex didn’t think this joke was as funny as I did, but it got a laugh, so take that, Alex.]

I told my kids that I was coming here tonight to talk to you and they all gave me their permission to talk to you about them and their diagnoses, so I’d like to thank  them for that. [They also gave me permission to publish my talk here so, again, thank you to them.]

My oldest son, Sam, is 14 years old and has an ADHD diagnosis. Jack is 12 and autistic. He was diagnosed shortly before he turned five. My ten-year-old, Quinn, was just diagnosed as autistic a few months ago. I was diagnosed with Aspergers, about four years ago, back when you still could be diagnosed that way. I spent 38 years being autistic but not knowing I was autistic. That has had a profound effect on me. I now identify as autistic.

So, I have experience with telling a child about his diagnosis when he was pretty young, telling one who was a little older, and dealing with this discovery myself, so hopefully what I have to say will be of value to you. And, as a side note, my family prefers the identity-first use of the term “autistic,” which is why you hear me say that a lot instead of person with autism. [I hate it when people correct me and tell me I need to use person first language, so I like to beat them to the punch by announcing my intentional use of “autistic.”]

I hear from a lot of people that say they don’t talk about their kids’ diagnoses with them but intend to do so sometime in the future when they think the information will be beneficial to the child or when they’ll need to know it.

I’d like to suggest to you that it is always beneficial to have that kind of self-knowledge and they may need to know it way before you think they do. Chances are that your child already knows something is up. Even when they’re very young, they know if they’re different. Or they are aware that they have a paraeducator at their desk but no one else does. Or that they go to OT and speech therapy and social skills group.

Or what about when your child knows he hates to be touched or hugged, but doesn’t know why, just that he disappoints the people he loves when he shies away from them. That was me. I had—and continue to have—a really big problem with touch and hugs from certain people at certain times. Until I understood why, I thought I was wrong. I thought I was a bad person for not wanting to hug my mom—and this is all the way until after graduate school. All I knew was that they felt bad about it and that made me feel bad about it. [This isn’t to make my mom feel bad—it is just for illustrative purposes. And I very much know she meant no harm. Much love to you, Mom.]

Once I knew about my autism and could understand why I felt the way I do, I knew that my brain was processing things differently and that it was okay to feel that way. It was a life-changing perception shift in so many ways.

When you tell a kid who feels alienated that there is a reason he feels apart and you let him know it’s OKAY to feel that way, it can make a world of difference.

Giving his way of being a name also gives him community. He might not know that there are other people like him in the world. He might think he is the only one. I told my 10-year-old yesterday that more than one percent of people are autistic. You should have seen his face. These kids aren’t alone and they should know that. [Seriously. It was super cool. Quinn had no idea he know so many autistic people. He thought that was cool.]

One common concern I hear from parents is that they worry that once their kids know they are autistic, they will use it as an excuse for why they can’t do things. My answer is that they might.

But kids use lots of things as excuses to get out of what they don’t want to do. The question is if you let them get away with it. These moments are opportunities to expand their understanding of autism—or maybe for you to expand your understanding of your child.

First, you have to check to make sure the excuse isn’t valid. Like maybe she really can’t take a test in that room because she’s autistic and the lights in there bother her. Or maybe he can’t perform in the school concert because the sounds are too overstimulating. Maybe the excuse is a reasonable plea for an accommodation.

But sometimes it really is just an excuse. These are kids after all and kids are creative and smart and can figure out how to manipulate you. [Alelx didn’t think it was a good idea for me to say what I really wanted to, which was, “Kids are jerks,” so I went with “creative and smart and manipulative.”] The few times one of my kids has said as an excuse, “I can’t do that because I’m autistic,” I call them on it. If they say their math homework is too hard for them because they’re autistic, you can sit down with them and show them that they can do it and that their particular neurology doesn’t prevent them from doing math. I think you can treat it like any other excuse—evaluate it for accuracy and then handle it as the situation calls for.

Some people don’t want to label their kids because of the stigma. Unfortunately there is stigma to developmental disabilities like autism. But the word itself—and the child’s self-knowledge—doesn’t cause stigma. If anything, it can give the child a shield when they understand that people who judge them because they are different are wrong. Especially if they know they have a community that backs them up.

Along the lines of stigma, the question of who to share the diagnosis with other than your immediate family is a very important conversation to have, but I think it is separate from this one. I live openly as an autistic person, but there are some situations where I don’t disclose my diagnosis. Regardless of whether you tell schools, employers, and extended family, you should tell your child.

Which brings me to what I think is the most important reason you should tell your child about their diagnoses: It is your child’s right to know. Her diagnosis isn’t your information—it’s hers. These kids have the right to know why they feel and act and do the things they do. They have the right to their information about their brains and bodies.

I’ve reads a lot of things from autistic people and on this subject, they virtually all agree that knowing they are autistic is essential. No one wishes their parents had kept the information from them. Once they learned about their diagnoses, they talk about finally understanding themselves and how they no longer had to see themselves as wrong and broken.

I have included on your handout a link to a blog post called “You should tell your kids that they’re autistic,” written by an autistic adult. If you are struggling with this, I highly recommend you read it, but I also highly recommend you read the comments on the post, many of which are by these same autistic adults. [Really. It’s a brilliant post.]

As someone who spent 38 years without knowing about her autism, I can tell you that the self-knowledge makes a huge difference. I used to spend a lot of time blaming myself for being intolerant of sensory input or thinking I was stupid because I didn’t understand certain things or that I was lazy because I couldn’t organize myself to keep my house clean. I thought I was just uptight and weird and wrong. Once I understood, I was able to understand these things and deal with them. For example, I still have sensory sensitivities, but I know how to avoid that kind of input or I can just cope better. Knowing about my diagnosis has led me to discover things about myself that I never would have otherwise and I am a far happier person because of it.

So if you’re all convinced that you should tell your child about their diagnosis, how do you do it? It can feel like a monumental moment when you tell your kid, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of it depends on your child’s age and style of communication.

If you’re sitting on the couch together, you can say, “Hey, I’ve been wanting to tell you something,” or on the way to social skills, ask her, “Hey, do you know why you go to social skills group?” [Evidently all of my sentences start with, “Hey!”]

My go-to explanation for introducing the subject is this: Everyone has things that are easier for them and things that are harder for them. Everybody’s brain works differently. The way your brain works has a name and that name is autism. You’re autistic.

That is exactly what I did with Jack. He was nearly five when he was diagnosed and I told him pretty quickly afterward. I like to talk about stuff like this in the car because there is no forced eye contact and they’re kind of a captive audience.

I actually told Jack in the car with his brothers, which may not be best for everyone but was for us. I was able to talk about different ways each of our brains worked and then said, “but the way Jack’s brain works has a name.”

This helped when his brother got an ADHD diagnosis because suddenly we had two neurologies that had names. [I think i might have made happy jazz hands when I said this. I’m a born public speaker.]

Your first conversation can be as short as that: “All brains work differently and the way yours works is called autism.” If your child seems interested or wants to talk more, you can, but they might need to just process that first little bit for a while.

Some people think their kids won’t understand either because they’re young or because of where they are on the spectrum. I suggest that they probably understand more than many people give them credit for. Offering a simple explanation but keeping it age- and developmentally appropriate is worthwhile.

And something else: They might already know. For example, if your child is a little older, maybe they have read about an autistic character in a book and identified with him, but just haven’t told you. My oldest son read Percy Jackson and identified pretty quickly with the main character, who has ADHD. If they’re younger, they might not have the word “autism” yet, but they might already know that they are different in a fundamental way.

I think that one of the most important things to remember when talking to your kids about their diagnosis is to remove any negativity you might feel about their autism. You may not be happy about your child being autistic. But don’t let your child see that because they will likely see it as you not being happy with them.

With my kids, I try to present it not as a negative or a positive—just a neutral. This is the way your brain works. It’s not good or bad, it just is.

That said, just last night I was talking to Quinn about his diagnosis and said, “One of the reasons we brought you to your therapist was to get his expertise to figure out how your brain works. Turns out it’s awesome!” When in doubt, go positive.

It can also be a good idea to let your kids know that all autistic people aren’t the same. They might be confused if they know an autistic person who is really different than them, but has the same word assigned to them.

Know that your child may not react well at first. That’s okay. Let them have their feelings. Listen to them. Stop talking if they need you to. You don’t have to get everything out in one conversation.

My 10-year-old got an IEP prior to his diagnosis. When I told him about the IEP, he was really upset. He thought it would change things for him at school and he was really mad. I tried to address each of his concerns and didn’t push the subject with him. He is at peace with it now, but wasn’t initially. It might take time.

Kids also don’t always hear exactly what it is that you mean—they interpret your words in their own way. Be direct and use simple language. A few months ago, when we started taking Quinn to a psychologist for a number of reasons, including diagnosis, we talked to him about those reasons several times. One day he got really upset and yelled, “You and [the therapist] are trying to change me!” It isn’t what either the therapist or I wanted to do, we had never said that, and in fact we had said the opposite, but that was what he had heard. It can be a good idea to check in with your kids to make sure they’re hearing the message you’re trying to send.

Once he got his diagnosis, Quinn was pretty okay with it, although he’s been a little more cautious with it than Jack has. Jack is all about autistic pride and fully owns his diagnosis.

Quinn had a bumpier transition. When we had him evaluated, we told him that we were trying to get a better idea of how his brain worked so that we can figure out some ways to make things that are hard for him easier.

Once he was diagnosed and we told him, he didn’t really want to talk about it, but since that time, his self-awareness has been amazing. He has learned to advocate for himself and use tools like noise-canceling headphones and fidgets at school. He knows to ask for breaks. He looks ahead at things he thinks might be hard for him and thinks about solutions. It has been amazing to watch. I don’t think he would have made this progress without knowing about his diagnosis. [Quinn’s pretty awesome at being autistic. He’s rocking it.]

I wanted to come here tonight with some other points of view as well, so I asked some parents how they told their kids about their diagnoses. I got some great answers, all of which were positive, which is obviously not every experience. Here are some of the things they said about why and how they told their kids:

“My husband and I never doubted that we should tell him; I’d certainly want to know if there were an explanation for my biggest struggles in life and a community of people out there who shared my interests and characteristics.”

Before emailing me, one mom asked her daughter “if she was glad she knew she had autism, or if she’d rather she didn’t know anything about it, and she said she’s glad she knows, she’d hate to be living a lie.”

Another said, “My kids were diagnosed at 2 and 3. I laid the groundwork throughout their younger years in the way we’d talk about neurodiversity, about the way bodies and brains work, it was just always there in the background and in the words I chose to use with them. Then when we got to the diagnosis conversation (I think they were about 7 and 9), it was really just about putting a word to concepts that were already very familiar to them.”

I LOVE this next one. “Once we had gotten the final word, we sat him down, very casually, and told him that the doctor had “found out that his brain works in some really amazing ways” and that he might find some things difficult, but that mostly, he will find that he is a really incredible person, and that lots of people have brains like his, and that he is exactly the son we have always wanted.” [I kind of want every parent to say that last thing to their autistic kids. Perfect.]

One mom talked about being a non-autistic person talking about autism to her autistic daughter: “The way I’ve come to terms with the issue, now that my daughter is old enough to ask her own questions about autism, is to embrace my ignorance. I’ve become comfortable with admitting to my daughter that I don’t have the answers to her questions myself, but that I would gladly help her search for them. She is the explorer; I am the Sherpa.”

I also think it is important to continue the conversation about your kids’ diagnoses with them. Follow their lead if they have questions and don’t force them to talk about it if they don’t want to, but also don’t mention it once and then never talk about it again.

I do that by noticing when I see one of my kids struggling with something because of their autism or ADHD, I’ll tell them that is why. Or if they are doing great at something that stems from their disability, I will tell them that. Like, I’ll say, “Lots of autistic people have great memories. Your being autistic is probably what’s helping you memorize the periodic table so quickly.” [Jack seems to be doing this. It’s kinda freaking me out.] Or I’ll say “You get upset when you hear that noise because you’re autistic and sensitive to noises.” Sometimes I’ll ask them questions, like, “Do you know why you repeat those words over and over? It’s because you’re autistic. Lots of autistic people do that.”

Doing this keeps the conversation open and lets you keep checking in to make sure the message you want to send is getting across. It also opens the door for their questions. You can teach them that autism doesn’t go away and that there are ways to find its gifts and cope with its challenges.

The end! I think I mumbled something to close up my remarks and I had a bunch more to say in response to questions, but this is sorta my basic message. I also had a handout that had some suggested reading including the adolescent version of ASAN’s Welcome to the Autistic Community as well as a couple of posts I wrote a while ago about my diagnosis (I would not have given it that title if I wrote it today) and about Jack knowing he was autistic when he was young.

Hopefully if you’re working through this issue, this will give you some ideas on how to approach the topic.

Bambi Meets Snowzilla

(In case you’re wondering, the “Bambi” referred to in the title is ALL OF THE DC AREA.)

It snowed this weekend. I don’t know if you heard.

EVERYTHING shut down. It was amazing. The farthest I ventured from my house so far this weekend is four houses down to rescue my children on their return from sledding and I fell down twice and had to go inside and sit down after I was done. It is a SCENE out there.

It’s difficult to really show the magnitude of this snowfall because all the photos I took just look like us standing pathetically in a lumpy white landscape.

Photo of me in winter gear standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than my shoulders.

I made a hill.

Photo of Alex standing in a partially shovelled driveway, with heaps of snow piled along the side.

Alex made a whole series of hills.

And then it snowed for ten more hours.

Happily, we didn’t lose power all weekend, which, frankly, was just about the only thing I really cared about. The thought of hanging out through days of no heat sounded horrifying. I’m also grateful that no trees fell on my house.

Photo of my backyard covered in snow. On the far left, you can see the treehouse, still triumphantly up in the tree.

And the treehouse is still standing!

At one point on Saturday, Alex and I were busy shoveling and we sent the munchkins down the street and around the corner to the sledding hill. They didn’t last long.

Quinn reappeared first as a black dot way down the street. He got bigger and louder as he approached, but happily, he wasn’t crying. He actually seemed to be in pretty good cheer, which was a nice surprise. “One of my legs isn’t working!” he shouted. Then he fell down. “There goes the other one!”

Photo of a field of white snow, with a small black dot of Quinn approaching. He's falling over.

(Click to embiggen.) This photo perfectly exemplifies the verb “to trudge.”

Most people hadn’t shoveled their sidewalks yet, so the going was pretty tough. We cleared ours early. It was fun to watch kids walking to and from the sledding hill discover the sidewalk path. We were definitely the best house to walk past.

Sam and Jack had a tougher time making it home. Quinn had left Sam in charge of bringing home all three sleds and an extremely bummed out Jack. I noticed them slogging along together waaaay down the street. They were kind of blurry blobs. Then the bigger blurry blob picked up the smaller one and started to carry him. That’s when I knew there was trouble.

Photo of Sam carrying Jack, cradled in his arms. It's really hard to see though.

It’s hard to see that Sam has Jack cradled like a baby here. It was impressive, if short-lived.

By the time I reached them, Jack had lost a shoe and was lying in the snow crying because he couldn’t feel his foot. All said, it was a reasonable reaction. Also, the fact that Sam didn’t just leave Jack to fend for himself speaks very highly of him.

They didn’t leave the house again for a very long time.

Thank God there was sun today (coincidentally, Sunday). Also confused cats.

Photo of Sharky looking at the back sliding door, where snow is piled up against it.

Sharky: “Something is different, but I just can’t quite put my paw on it.”

When I looked out the window and saw that the street had finally been plowed, I was delighted.

Photo taken from second floor of my house of the very snowy street in front of my house. The road is plowed.

Do you see that beautiful flat road? That means access to the outside world.

Or so I thought. See that area at the end of the driveway between the two piles of snow? That’s, like, three-foot deep snow that had to be cleared. And sadly, it turns out that Alex and I are the adults in the situation and there was no one but us who was going to shovel it.

The munchkins fought their way out of the driveway and then took a much easier walk down the plowed road to the sledding hill while Alex and I chipped away at the snow.

Photo of Alex standing in the driveway next to almost waist high snow. The driveway is partially shoveled.

I was the first to battle my way out.

Sadly, however, one path that required a long step over a pile of ice chunks wasn’t going to release the car. So Alex and I kept at it, shovelful by shovelful, each of which had to be hurled over our quickly growing piles.

Me standing in front of a pile of snow that is taller than me.

We made our pile bigger.

Our children eventually came back from sledding. Sam disappeared inside and Quinn made some microwave popcorn only to reappear twenty minutes later with the demand, “Mom! Make me an igloo!”

It must be nice to be ten and oblivious.

(I didn’t make him an igloo.)

Jack stuck around and helped us by chiseling away at the icy crust on the pile and throwing snowballs at me from his perch on top of our new hills.

Photo of Jack leaning over the top of a snowbank.

He’s lucky he’s cute.

It only took Alex and I a couple of hours to clear the driveway, remove the car’s snow hat, and make sure the car could back up out of its snow nest. Earlier in the day, I had wondered if I could put on my Yaktrax and go for a run in the streets. Now I just want to sit on the couch for the rest of my life and enjoy the thought that if I wanted to, I could go somewhere.

Screenshot of a facebook post of mine, which is a photo of Alex with arms up in celebration after I made it to the street. The caption reads "WE'RE FREE!!! WE MADE A HOLE TO THE STREET!!"

For the record, I don’t want to.

Something TERRIBLE Has Happened

Alex let me sleep in on Sunday morning. He had plans to take Jack and Quinn to get hair trims. Their hair was getting a little shaggy, so we thought it would be a good idea to neaten things up by having the barber cut a couple inches off the ends for each of them.

Jack was down with the plan. Quinn, who hates haircuts and also hates the aftermath of haircuts when everyone notices and talks about his haircut, had grudgingly agreed.

That was the plan when I went to bed Saturday night.

I woke up on Sunday morning to Alex shaking me and frantically waving his hands around and asking me if I’d gotten the texts he’d sent. “Something went seriously wrong,” he was saying. “It’s not okay. Things went badly.”

I swear to God, I thought someone had died.

Alex was finally able to communicate that the disaster was haircut related and I picked up my phone and read my texts.

Screen capture of a text exchange between Alex and I: Me: "Did you get brownie mix? If not, I'll stop at the grocery store. (Read Yesterday); Alex: No (Today 9:47am) Alex: Quinn's haircut has gone a little sideways. It is important for you to not mention it when we get home. Alex: Spiro cut off too much hair. Even I'm annoyed.

I know. And he didn’t get the fucking brownie mix either.

Sideways?! SIDEWAYS?! ALEX, YOU HAD ONE JOB.

You guys. Jack and Quinn both have short, boy haircuts now.

Clearly, I am devastated.

They both still look cute, but…omg their beautiful hair. Jack likes his haircut because it is easier to comb, but I miss his gorgeous long, thick hair. Still, I suppose it is HIS hair and he gets control over it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t pout about it.

Quinn, on the other hand…well, Quinn was a serious problem. He didn’t even let me see his hair until five or six that night. He wore his coat over his head for a couple of hours and then switched to a hat once I found one for him. I had a feeling that his first day back at school would be less than ideal.

I wrote an email to his teachers, excerpted here:

Something terrible has happened. I let my husband take Quinn for a haircut this weekend, where he was supposed to get a neat little trim that no one at school would notice.

BOOM! BLAM! KAPOW!

Things went poorly. Evidently the husband read a magazine like it was his first day parenting Quinn and the barber went unsupervised and things spiraled out of control and now Quinn has short hair.

So. The reason I tell you is not just because my baby’s beautiful golden hair is gone. But because he is going to be very sensitive about it on Tuesday.

It turns out that Quinn did very well today. His wonderful teachers let him wear a hat all day and Quinn says his hair is growing back already, so it looks like things are going to work out okay. Also, we shouldn’t be too hard on Alex. He did tell and show the barber what Quinn wanted done. We can’t blame a rogue barber’s actions on Alex.

(Sam: “I’m so glad I didn’t go.”)

Poor kiddo though. Our two outcomes are (1) I am now in charge of boy haircuts and (2) Quinn never goes back to Spiro the barber again.

And now we begin the long process of sitting back and watching hair grow. I just thought I should let you know so you wouldn’t be surprised in case Quinn ever lets me take and post another photo of him. Chances of that are about 50/50.

Telling Kids They’re Autistic: I Want Your Stories

Hi, friendos! I will be speaking on a panel later this month aimed at parents who want advice on talking to their kids about their autism diagnoses. I have LOTS of things to say about this. My kids have known about their neurodivergence almost as long as I have. I think that it has helped them so much in terms of self esteem, self awareness, and self advocacy. I am hoping that in the future it will continue to provide them with these things as well as a community of people like them.

But much as I think my ideas are the best and only ideas in the world, I’m pretty sure they’re not. I’m interested in hearing your stories so I can share some of them (anonymously).

I am particularly interested in hearing from autistic people about when they learned they were autistic, whether as a child or an adult and how it affected them. I would also love to hear from parents so I can share some of your stories as well.

I’ve given you some prompts below, because I’m helpful that way. If you would be so kind as to tell me what category you fall into and tell me a little bit of your story (short or long), I would be so grateful. You can leave a comment or email me at stimeyland@gmail.com.

The presentation is at the end of the month, but I’ll be sure to write about some of your responses here as well after the event.

Your writing prompts:

Autistic people: How did you find out you were autistic? Who told you? How did they tell you? How did it change things? If you learned this later in life, how do you think it might have changed things when you were younger if you had known then? Do you have advice for parents who are thinking about this process?

Parents of autistic people: Have you told your child? Why or why not? If you have, what was their reaction? Do you think you made the right choice? Is there anything you would have done differently?

Autistic parents: Hi, fellow travelers! Let me know either or both of your experiences!

Also, you all are nice and extremely good looking and my favorites.

I Am the Greatest Parent in the History of Parents

I got Quinn the most amazing present for Christmas. It was so good that he didn’t even care that it didn’t arrive until today.

Quinn actually came up with the idea for the gift. He is so bonded to his cat, Oreo, that when we go on vacation he has a really hard time sleeping without her. (I suspect that she has her own problems sleeping without him as well. They are weirdly codependent.)

When faced with an overnight trip that his class takes in the spring, Quinn was worried that he would have trouble without Oreo. He suggested that a stuffed animal that looks like Oreo would help. That led us to start investigating the world of custom stuffed animals.

Enter Cuddle Clones.

Enter Fake Oreo.

Photo of Oreo the cat sitting next to a virtually identical stuffed animal replica of her.

I was nervous that she wouldn’t turn out right. I should not have had this worry.

I opened the box while Quinn was at school and spent the rest of the day tapping my foot waiting for the moment I could give her to him. He knew she was coming this week, so I had to hide her box until Alex got home because Alex wanted to see The Reveal.

Oh, it was worth it.

Photo of Quinn holding Fake Oreo. He has a huge grin on his face.

This was his first look at her.

I asked Quinn if he liked her. He said, “No.” <looooong pause> “I LOVE her!”

Fake Oreo spent the rest of the evening freaking us out by making us think Oreo was sitting in funny places around the house. This might be a huge problem.

If you are so inclined to purchase an extravagant gift for the animal lover in your life, you should know that you can sign up for Cuddle Clones’ email list and take advantage of one of the many discounts they offer. It also takes a long time for them to make your clone. I think I ordered Fake Oreo in early November. And you will need to provide MANY photos, including one of the animal’s tail and butt area.

In return, you will get a stuffed animal that is a detailed replica of your animal, right down to the black spot on her left front wrist. Seriously. Amazing.

There is nowhere to go from here. I’ve done it. This was the gift to end all gifts…the coping tool to end all coping tools…the joy to end all joy. Job accomplished.

Close up of Quinn and Fake Oreo's face. He is so happy.

Stimey’s 2016 Races

Photo of me running next to words that say "Stimey's 2016 Race Calendar"January 1: New Year’s Day 5K
5k
Reston, VA
Official time: 35:26

February 7: Penguin Pace
5k
Columbia, MD
Official time: 36:40

March 30-April 11: Zombies, Run!
10k
Virtual race
Official time:

May 1: Pittsburgh Half Marathon
13.1 miles
Pittsburgh, PA
Official time:

September 18: Revenge of the Penguins
20 miles
Carderock, MD
Official time:

November 6: Across the Bay 10K
10k
Annapolis, MD
Official time:

November 12: Oceans 50 Relay Race
50 miles, 6 people
Flagler County, FL
Official time: